“My heart skips a beat every time I hear the Cal Marching Band strike up Our Sturdy Golden Bear.”
Walter A. Haas, Jr.
The Golden Bears build a Stadium Cal’s intercollegiate athletics made a rocky start in 1873, when the Class of 1875 played the first football game against Oakland High School for the championship of Alameda County. With 20 players to a side, the game was more free-for-all than orderly contest.
Football was nevertheless popular, and, when Cal played the first Big Game against Stanford in 1892, it drew a record crowd of 15,000 fans to a field in San Francisco. In the excitement, both teams forgot to bring a football, and someone had to be sent downtown in a carriage to buy one. The final outcome: Stanford 14, Cal 10.
Cal’s fortunes improved when Andy Smith became the football coach. His unbeaten “Wonder Teams” won four Pacific Coast Conference (PCC) titles between 1920 and 1923. These successes generated so much interest that the football team needed a new home — one that could hold as many as 80,000 fans. A statewide campaign was launched to raise $1 million from students, alumni, and the people of California to build a stadium.
“Be a stadium builder” became the motto. A parade of floats passed through Berkeley and Oakland; 2,300 ROTC cadets spelled out “stadium” with their bodies for newsreels; a student did a handstand on top of the Campanile’s cornice; and cheerleaders led yells in Bay Area cities. California Memorial Stadium was dedicated in November 1923.
The Golden Bears won a national championship in football under coach Leonard “Stub” Allison in 1937; and during Lynn “Pappy” Waldorf’s 10 years as coach, they won PCC championships in 1948, 1949, and 1950 and went to the Rose Bowl for three consecutive years.
With 27 varsity intercollegiate sports on campus, honors for athletic achievement have not been limited to football. Golden Bears have won national or regional championships in rugby, crew, baseball, basketball, field hockey, gymnastics, softball, swimming, track and field, and water polo.
Win or lose, the tradition of the scholar/athlete has guided generations of Golden Bears to honor the balance between mind and body, to revere discipline and teamwork, and to strive for excellence in all they do.